ACET Idiom of the Week!

This week’s idiom is As Scarce as Hens’ Teeth!

HensDo hens have teeth? I don’t think so!! Like so many English idioms this conjures up a strange image.

This idiom is used to express that something is very rare and hard to find.

Example sentenceI looked in every shop to buy a red pair of boots, but I couldn’t find them anywhere, they’re as rare as hens’ teeth.

 Where does this idiom come from?

The roots of this idiom are hard to trace, but it is believed to be an American idiom from the early 1600s. You may not know that birds don’t have teeth like mammals, although they may have a serrated beak, but definitely not teeth. So, when we say something is as scarce as hen’s teeth, then this object must be very rare.

Do we still use this idiom?

Not as often as we used to. Nowadays, you are more likely to hear people say: I couldn’t find the red boots anywhere, they are like gold dust.

Gold dustEnjoy learning and using English Idioms



Making the most of your Dictionary

It’s finally Friday and that means another post from ACET! Today I’m going to talk about how to make the most of your dictionary.

dA good dictionary is invaluable when learning English.  A monolingual dictionary is preferable and provides a lot more than the meaning of words.

 With a good dictionary you can:

  • check the spelling of a word (k-n-e-e)
  • check the plural of a noun or past tense of a verb (go – went – gone)
  • find out grammatical information about a word ( is it countable or uncountable)
  • find the synonym or antonym of a word  (similar word or opposite word)
  • look up the collocations of a word (worried about – interested in)
  • check the part of speech of a word (noun – verb – adjective – adverb)
  • find out how to say a word (phonetics)
  • find out about the register/style of a word (informal – slang – old-fashioned)

Which type of dictionary?

Using online and electronic dictionaries are becoming more and more popular. Electronic dictionaries are a good choice as they provide native language equivalents and explanations, as well as definitions and example sentences in English. Also, they can sound the word out in English and they are lighter to carry to class. However, they can be quite expensive. With a computer, you can use online dictionary. There are many good ones for ELT learners. A high level (advanced) monolingual dictionary is highly recommended for ELT learners with a high standard of English and a keen interest in language and word use. Modern dictionaries are based on large corpora of naturally occurring language which helps ensure the information is up to date and informative.

ddAs well as knowing how to use your dictionary – you need to know when to use it.

Looking up every word you don’t understand is not recommended. You have limit yourself and choose the most useful words to check and the right time to do it. Try to guess the meaning from context and if you can’t and it seems important, then look it up. Don’t interrupt your reading for too long or too often.

In class ask your teacher to write new words on the board in context which you can then record in your notebooks. Better not to look it up in the dictionary in class as you may miss something else – check it at home later, if necessary.  

Use your dictionary now to look up some of these adjectives.  Have Fun! Laura


What is your learning style?

In the classroom it is clear that not all students learn in the same way.  It is important for both the teacher and the student to be aware of their own learning style as this effects their behaviour in class and their response to different activities and material in class.

 The three most common learning styles are:


Visual learners like working with visual information when learning English.

Auditory learners like receiving information by listening and responding.

Kinaesthetic learners like to include physical activities in the learning process.

pVisual Learners:

  • Prefer seen or observed things such as pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, displays, handouts, films, flip charts etc
  • Will say ‘show me’ and ‘let me see that’ and complete tasks more effectively if they see a demonstration first or read some instructions. 
  • Work well with lists, written directions and instructions.
  • Enjoy a grammar lesson taught through a context created by pictures and drawings.
  • Write better with tasks based on graphs and tables.
  • Learn better by underlining and highlighting in different colours

Study Tips for Visual Learners

  • Underline, highlight, or circle printed material
  • Draw pictures in notes to illustrate ideas
  • Use a variety of colours-in pens, highlighters, note cards, etc. for different categories or concepts
  • Write it out
  • Use outlines, pictures, graphs, charts and diagrams
  • Make mind maps
  • Look at your teacher and others when they talk to help you focus and to pick up on body language
  • Make and use flashcards for studying vocabulary
  • Study in a quiet place away from verbal disturbances
  • Make your study area visually appealing

pAuditory Learners:

  • Prefer the transfer of information through listening, either to the spoken word or sounds and noises.
  • Will say ‘tell me’ or ‘let’s talk it over’ and will complete a task more successfully after listening to instructions.
  • Are able to handle spoken instructions and directions over the phone
  • Can remember song lyrics
  • Enjoy mingling activities and information gap tasks
  • Respond well to drills when learning new grammar structures and also to teacher’s oral questions
  • Benefit from spending time in quiet places to recall ideas
  • Should record summarized notes and listen to them.

 Study Tip for Auditory Learners

  • Study in groups and talk things out
  • Record the lesson
  • Reduce lecture notes to main ideas
  • Listen to audio books while driving
  • Read questions aloud
  • Work out problems aloud
  • Sit in the front of the class
  • Learn by participating in class discussions
  • Create mnemonics to aid memorization
  • Explain ideas to other people

pKinaesthetic Learners:

  • Prefer physical experience – touching, feeling, holding, doing, hands-on experiences
  • Will remember the ‘real’ things that happened.
  • Will say ‘let me try’ and ‘how do you feel?’ and will perform tasks better by going ahead and trying it out, learning as they go
  • Like to experiment and tend not to look at instructions first
  • Enjoy moving around the classroom with mingling and Find Someone Who activities
  • Like running dictations where students have to run to a text and run back to  their group to dictate what they can remember.
  • Learn and recall more by talking it through with another kinaesthetic learner

 Study Tips for Kinaesthetic Learners

  • Get hands on-don’t just watch someone else do it
  • Draw charts or diagrams of relationships
  • Skim through reading material to get a rough idea of what it’s about before looking for details
  • Use finger or bookmark as a guide while reading
  • Write, copy, underline and highlight with bright colours
  • Take frequent study breaks
  • Transfer reduced information to flashcards
  • Move around to learn new things (i.e. read while walking or on an exercise bike to learn a new concept)
  • Work in a standing position
  • Study or brainstorm while walking or working out
  • Study with a friend or group
  • Try listening to non-distracting music


It is important to discover your learning styles as it indicates the way we’re “wired” and this can help use to be more successful in our learning.

 Many learners have a mixture of learning styles – take the quiz below to find out yours.